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Friday Recap: Dill Shines For UMass In 3-2 Win Over Northeastern

The theme of this young season is that the Massachusetts hockey team continues to progress, finding ways to overcome challenges, and stays competitive.  Last night the Minutemen made strides in keeping their opponents off the scoreboard in a 3-2 win over Northeastern.  The main reason for this was the play of freshman goaltender Henry Dill who stopped 42 of 44 shots in just his second collegiate shot but that doesn’t mean this wasn’t a team effort.

Northeastern got on the board first 3:46 into the game when Zach Aston-Reese made a nice move on Jake Horton to skate into the slot and got the puck to Torin Snyderman who shot past Dill.  Horton would make up for it just two and a half minutes later by shooting on Derek Roy, who was a surprise starter in net for NU.  Zack LaRue got his stick on Horton’s shot for his second goal of the season, tying the game at a goal apiece.  The Minutemen would take the lead later in the first on a power play goal from Ray Pigozzi, who followed up a three assist game last Saturday with his first goal of the season.  The Huskies tied it shortly after when Dill was unable to cover up a loose puck in front of him and Dalen Hedges jumped on it and put it into the net.

At the end of the first with four goals on the board and 25 total shots it seemed like the game would end up being a barnburner, but the goaltenders would settle in and only one goal was scored the rest of the game.  That goal came off the stick of Emerson Auvenshine who was inserted into the lineup at defense with Maddison Smiley and Ben Gallacher banged up.  The gamewinner came from a great cross ice pass on the rush from LaRue to Auvenshine who one timed it over Roy’s shoulder.  Dill kept the Huskies off the board for the final 11 minutes and UMass picked up their first Hockey East win of the season.

Dill will rightly get the accolades from the win for his 42 save effort, but the guys in front of him deserve credit as well.  Dill probably let up more rebounds than he and the coaching staff would like, but the defense and forwards were quick to clear the loose pucks and minimize potential second chances.  The team killed all seven of the Huskies’ power play chances and have now killed 15 of 16 opponent power plays on the season.  One area of improvement will be to not allow so many shots on net, but for a defensive unit that is pretty thin and now starting forwards, I thought last night was pretty good on the defensive end.

It won’t get any easier though as they face a Boston College team that put up six goals on Colorado College last night.    It should be interesting to see who gets the start in net as Steve Mastalerz has had some of the best games of his career against the Eagles, but Dill proved himself as a legitimate Hockey East goaltender last night.  Either way, it’s good to have options in net.  I couldn’t help but notice that when the buzzer sounded Mastalerz was the first guy off the bench to congratulate Dill on his win.  I think the bigger question going into tonight though is when we’ll see something from the top line.  While it’s been excellent that UMass has been able to win two in a row based solely on production from their second and third lines, if the Minutemen have any chance of upsetting the 6th ranked Eagles they absolutely have to get something from the line of Vatrano/Kravchenko/Power.

 

Fear The Triangle Player of the Game – Henry Dill
Obviously.  The highlights below include some of Dill’s better saves as well as the goals.

UMass Wins 3-2; Dill Saves 42

The performances by Dill and Auvenshine are the focus on this Boston Herald recap.

Northeastern coach Jim Madigan blames the lack of puck luck for his team’s loss in the USCHO recap.

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Weekend Preview: UMass Heads East To Take On Northeastern and BC

Northeastern Huskies 0-3-0 (0-1-0) Hockey East T-5th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 1-2-0 (0-1-0) Hockey East T-5th

The Massachusetts hockey team heads to Boston (and Newton) this weekend to take on a couple of Hockey East foes in Northeastern and Boston College.  After starting their three week, three state, six game road trip in Michigan last weekend, this week finds them in the more familiar hub before heading north to Maine next weekend.  This weekend presents an opportunity to get their first Hockey East points against two teams that are in somewhat uncomfortable situations.

Northeastern was one of the bigger surprises in all of college hockey last year.  The Huskies went from just 9 wins in 2012-13 to 19 last year, finishing tied for fourth in Hockey East and narrowly missing a tournament berth.  The team was second to BC in offense thanks to young and talented players like Kevin Roy (19 goals) and Mike Szmatula (15 goals).  Five of their top 7 goal scorers were sophomores or freshmen.  Probably a bigger surprise than their young firepower though was the play of their veteran goaltender, Clay Witt.  After playing just 16 games coming into his redshirt junior year Witt ended up putting up huge numbers last season, finishing second in the league with a .932 save percentage.  Between the youthful scorers and Clay Witt passing over pro offers to come back to St Botolph Street, big things were expected of the Huskies this season, picked fourth in the league by the coaches and even receiving a first place vote.

Fast forward to two weekends into the season and things probably couldn’t be any worse for Husky fans.  Their team comes into the weekend a very surprising 0-3-0.  It’s not just the losing record however, it’s how they’ve lost.  Opening night at Matthews Arena saw the home team lose to Vermont by a score of 6-2.  Unfortunately for the Huskies, they haven’t scored since as last weekend they travelled to upstate New York to play a very good Colgate team who shut out the Huskies 3-0 on consecutive nights.  That kind of early season performance puts Northeastern second to last in defense and dead last in offense among Hockey East teams.

An optimist may think UMass is fortunate to take on the Huskies when they’re playing so incredibly poorly.  But on the flip side this team has to embarrassed and hungry.  Coming home after getting dominated so thoroughly means they could be pretty dangerous.  This team is having a really, really tough time getting things together right now but they didn’t somehow become less talented.  Witt is still the same player who had four shutouts in the league last year and Roy, my personal pick for Player of the Year, is not going to be held goalless forever.  The Minutemen will have to be very careful around this wounded dog.

Boston College

#6 Boston College Eagles 1-1-0 (0-1-0) Hockey East T-5th

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Massachusetts Minutemen 1-2-0 (0-1-0) Hockey East T-5th

It’s not the same as the lopsided results that the Huskies have produced so far, but the Eagles losing to a rebuilding Lowell team 5-2 in the season opener raised a few eyebrows.  BC in that game produced just 21 shots on net.  Just 21.  For the usual high flying Eagle program which scored over 4 goals a game last season that statistic was a shocker.  They did follow it up with a 6-2 win last weekend in Rochester over RIT.  Still, that first result against Lowell has to make fans scratch their heads a bit.

It has been the young guys producing for the Eagles so far as 5 of the 7 goal scorers are underclassmen.  Sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald is the only multi-goal scorer, finding the net in each of their games.  BC has also gotten some good production from the blueline with four different defensemen scoring goals.  Junior defenseman Teddy Doherty leads the team with three points coming into this weekend on a goal and two assists.

While his offense didn’t get him much help against Lowell, sophomore goaltender Thatcher Demko didn’t do them any favors either, letting in four goals on 23 shots.  That’s a long ways from the .919 save percentage that landed him on the Hockey East All Rookie team last year.  He looked better last week making 25 saves on 27 RIT Tiger shots.  The Eagles will be taking on Colorado College in a non-conference game tomorrow night before the Minutemen take the B Line out to Conte Forum to meet them on Saturday.

To completely oversimplify things for UMass I think they just need to keep doing what they’re doing.  Meaning, last weekend we saw them build upon each previous game, improving with each outing.  They hung in tough with BU for two periods in the opener only to completely unravel in the third when faced with a two goal deficit.  In the first game in Lansing the adversity came early in the form of an early Michigan State lead and a key injury on defense.  But the team didn’t unravel, they continued to fight to the end, ultimately still losing.  Last Saturday the team played hard again and still looked like they were heading for an 0-3 start to the season.  But again they battled, tied the game with five minutes left, and then capitalized on an ill-timed Spartan penalty to get the dramatic victory.  They’re an inexperienced team and I think what we’re seeing is the players going through a situation, learning from it, and then knowing how to respond when faced with something similar.

There are still going to be challenges to overcome however.  The most obvious is depth on the blueline.  Ben Gallacher is still recovering from a nasty hit last weekend.  That leaves UMass with just six defensemen on the roster.  In his coach’s show this week Coach Micheletto said that Maddison Smiley was questionable.  Smiley is recovering from illness and may not have the stamina to go both nights yet.  That means a forward will have to step up (step back?) and play defense if Smiley can only dress one night.  Mick said Emerson Auvenshine has already been taking shifts at defense in practice and he has in mind some other options as well.  Auvenshine seems like a logical choice given his style of play but for a team that is giving up over five goals a game potential problems dressing defensemen should make UMass fans a little squeamish.

The Minutemen scored 7 goals against a solid Spartan defense anchored by one of the better goaltenders in the country.  That is reason for optimism.  Add to the fact that the majority of the offense came from underclassmen.  It’s only a couple games but last weekend UMass had two lines clicking with the Keith Burchett, Shane Walsh, Dominic Trento combination looking good on Friday and the Ray Pigozzi, Steven Iacobellis, and Patrick Lee line totaling three goals and 10 points on Saturday.  Now the Minutemen just need the top line of Frank Vatrano, Dennis Kravchenko, and Troy Power to make a strong showing.  If they don’t get it going on Friday, maybe facing the team the team he was once slated to play for would be enough motivation for Vatrano to breakout against BC.

While each game has seemed like some kind of learning experience for the team this season, these are still important games and unlike last weekend these count in the league standings.  Hockey East points in October are worth just as much as the ones in February and though all these road games may be unfair for a team still trying to get to know each other, the outcomes of these games could have long ranging consequences.  Though very different from each other, both these arenas can be difficult places to play, especially for the first time.  When you skate at Matthews you’re skating into a part of history, with a rowdy student section, and fans who are literally hanging over the ice from their storied balcony seats.  Conte doesn’t have the same character, but it’s a place where BC doesn’t lose very often and they have quite a few banners to prove it.  Last weekend this Minuteman team proved they can fight and win halfway across the country.  This weekend they can show they’re capable of doing the same against league opponents in-state.

Beer The Triangle
There’s a certain bar that I usually send fans to prior to Northeastern games (no, not Uno’s) that’s one of my favorites.  I may send you there in the future, but this time I’m just going to ask you to read this.  For before or after (I prefer after) the BC game regular readers already know where I’ll send you.  Here’s what you’ll currently find on draft at Publick House.  I haven’t had the Allagash Farm to Face, but it piques my interest.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and Port Older Viscosity will be on draft by Saturday.

I did a Q&A with BC Interruption ahead of Saturday’s game which supplements this preview.

The Collegian previews the weekend ahead as well as focuses in on the early success of the Pigozzi/Iacobellis/Lee line.

The Gazette has their weekend preview.

View From Section U: On The Subject Of Triangles

Sorry, no View From Section U column tonight.  At least nothing original.  I’m going to use the evening to get a jump of the weekend preview as well as try to get to some other stuff I’ve ignored.  But I figured I may as well dust off something from the archives for new FTT readers.  I’m sure there are probably some new students and fans that have found their way to the blog since the restart who may be asking themselves, “What’s the deal with the triangles and why should we be afraid of them?”  I’d like to say that the blog’s name is based on my own interpretation of a can’t miss triangle offense which I took years developing.  But, I’ve never played hockey and don’t have a great knowledge of the Xs and Os, so that’s not it.

It has to do with those wonderful jerseys that were ranked higher, at least in this list, than any team that wore them.  So I’ll take this opportunity to bring the myth and magic of the triangle to those who have only recently become UMass fans.  It’s also timely since the subject of triangles came up during this past weekend’s radio broadcast, with play-by-play announcer John Hennessy even mentioning a phobia of everyone’s favorite geometric shape (your check is in the mail, John).  So here’s what I wrote about the infamous beloved triangle back in 2010 when the team was going through some trying times:

In the tradition of Paul Revere, Billy Dawes, and Samuel Prescott, I am officially alerting the Minuteman militias.  “The Triangles are coming!  The Triangles are coming!”

I’m sure many people have started reading the Fear The Triangle blog in the past year without really knowing what the phrase even means.  Well I guess it’s time to fill you in.  The triangle of course refers to the old pennant jerseys introduced by former coach Joe Mallen when the program was resurrected in 1993.  That year also marked my first year at UMass and when I first started following the team.  Many of the friends whom I watch the game with started following the team around the same time or a few years later, but we all remember those Mallen years vividly.  Or should I say we all remember those years, unfortunately.  That was some pretty bad hockey bad then.  Not only did UMass lose regularly, they lost in epic fashion at times.  It wasn’t easy being a UMass fan back then, but we had fun and stuck with the team anyway.  Flash forward to 2006.  The team had long since abandoned its triangle jerseys and somewhat abandoned it’s losing ways.  Kinda.  The 2006-2007 squad got out to a good start with a 6-1-1 record.  But then it all came apart.  The team proceeded to go 2-6-2 over the next 10 games, with the last being a 2-1 loss at, of all places, Lawler Arena at Merrimack.  Seeing UMass basically undo all they had accomplished earlier and reverting back to the form of the Mallen years, I had a desperate idea.  If the team was going to play like the team of old that wore triangles, then we were going to play the part as fans.  A call was put out to the hardcore group of fans; it was triangle time.  Our newish block logo UMass jerseys were put away and the old 90’s era jerseys were taken out of mothballs and worn to the very next game.  What do you know, a 4-2 win at home over Merrimack.  Well that was pretty cool, so we had to wear them again right?  UMass plastered Lowell 5-1.  In fact UMass would go 5-1-1 over the next 7 games.  The season was back on track and amazingly enough at end of it all UMass had its first NCAA berth and first tournament win.  In subsequent years, in trying times when the prospects of the season look dire and the team looked downright horrid, the triangles were brought out and for the most part the team would enjoy some success.

Some teams have rally hats.  Some have rally towels.  Hell, some even have rally monkeys.  UMass, for whatever reason, has rally triangles.

Well, losers of 6 of 7 and being dominated by a 9th place Merrimack team by the score of 4-1 sure sounds like a triangle-clad team to me!  Therefore the gauntlet is being thrown down.  If you have a triangle buried somewhere in your closet or know someone who does, make sure to locate it and don it tonight.  At best whatever magic it contains may just help the team get out of its funk.  At worst, we’ll all be dressed appropriately for the level of play on the ice before us.  Who knows.  Maybe the team will in fact win.  Maybe they’ll go on a little run.  Maybe they secure a place in home ice and the pairwise to end the season.  Maybe UMass opponents will know what it means to fear the triangle.

 

The Collegian has this article on the performance of Patrick Lee, Jake Horton, and Keith Burchett so far on the season.

Troubling news on the coming seismic shift to college sports with the news that Texas will be paying each of their student-athletes $10,000 a year in the future.  Not just the athletes in their revenue driving sports, but all athletes.  It ends up being $6 million a year.  The entire UMass budget is a little less than $30 million, so this is obviously something UMass and a good portion of DI schools would not be able to match.  How UMass chooses to address the disparity, especially in football and men’s basketball, and how that would affect hockey remains to be seen.  I think a more immediate concern is if schools that currently play DI hockey choose to pay college hockey players something similar.  Certainly the Big Ten schools, Notre Dame, and potential Boston College could start offering their athletes considerable sums to play there, which puts everyone else at a huge disadvantage.  We’ll see how things continue to shake out.  But I think college sports as we’ve grown accustomed to is going to be a thing of the past.

Recruit Update

Brandon Montour – D – Waterloo Blackhawks (USHL) – Dec 2014
7 GP / 1 G / 6 A / 7 Pts / 2 PIM / 0
Montour picked up his first goal of the year in a 2-1 loss for the Blackhawks.

Brandon Egli – D – Vernon Vipers (BCHL) – 2015
6 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
Egli played this past weekend for Vernon but didn’t register in the scoring.

Jake McCarthy – D – South Shore Kings (USPHL) – 2015 or 2016
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts / 0 PIM
McCarthy is still nursing an injury that is delaying his debut for the Kings.

Kurt Keats – C – Powell River Kings (BCHL) – 2015
12 GP / 11 G /7 A / 18 Pts / 10 PIM
Keats has now scored a goal in six straight games, scoring 7 goals total to go with three assists in that span.  He’s second in the league in goals and 6th in points.

Austin Plevy – C – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2015
15 GP / 9 G /16 A / 24 Pts / 20 PIM
Plevy had two goals and three assists this past week.  He continues to lead the AJHL in points while ranking 6th in goals.

Troy Conzo – RW – Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) – 2016 or 2017
2 GP / 0 G /0 A /0 Pts / 0 PIM / -2
Conzo played his second game of the season for the Bucs but didn’t make it into the scoring.  One thing to keep in mind about Conzo is he is one of the younger players on his team.  He will still have one or two seasons in the USHL most likely after this one.

Kyler Nachtigall – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
15 GP / 3 G / 3 A / 6 Pts / 33 PIM
Nachtigall had a goal and an assist this past week.

Shane Bear – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016
13 GP / 0 G / 6 A / 6 Pts / 16 PIM
It appears there was a stat correction this week as Bear actually lost a couple assists.

Ty Pelton-Byce – C – Team Wisconsin U18 (Elite)/Madison Memorial (WI HS) – 2016
18 GP / 11 G / 11 A / 22 Pts / 8 PIM  Team Wisconsin U18
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts  Madison Memorial
Pelton-Byce had two goals and an assist in the past week.  He’s among the league leaders in goals and points.

John Leonard – F – Springfield Rifles (Mass Selects)/Springfield Cathedral (MA HS) – 2017
10 GP / 13 G / 6 A / 19 Pts  Springfield Rifles
0 GP / 0 G / 0 A / 0 Pts  Springfield Cathedral
T.A. from Hockeyrecruits4u blog passed along the info that Leonard is playing for the Springfield Rifles of the Mass Selects league before his high school season starts.  Leonard has mostly played with the U16 team where he currently is 4th in the league in goals and 7th in points.  He did play one game with the U18 team where he scored a hat trick.

For those interested, here is the Springfield Rifles logo:

Hmm….there is something very familiar about that image…  can’t put my finger on it…

UMass had two of the Top 5 plays highlighted on the NCAA Hockey website with Patrick Lee’s gamewinner grabbing the top spot.  I’m still partial to the Horton goal sequence though that came in at #3.  If you want to feel optimistic about this season watch that highlight a few times.  The ticket office should burn that play on DVDs to be sent to any lapsed season ticket holders.  Any Pond Club mailings should include a DVD of that play personally signed by each player that touched the puck.  A video board should be added to the side of the practice rink just to show it over and over to the poor students making the long walk in from the yellow and green lots next to Mullins and make their daily trek a little better.  Assistant coaches Joey Gasparini and Ryan Miller should save the highlight onto their phones to aid them in their recruiting trips.  All FBS football conferences that UMass is targeting for membership should be shown that video, just because hockey.  Coach Micheletto should walk in to the next UMass sports luncheon, show the play on a loop while blasting AC/DC, and just walk out leaving the luncheon regulars in stunned awe.  If you aren’t excited after watching that play there is nothing more I can do to help you, you might as well delete FTT from your bookmarks.

Here’s the latest blog entry from Troy Power chronicling the road trip to East Lansing, complete with video this week.

Here’s an interesting first piece in a series from USCHO on the current challenges in scheduling games in college hockey.  This is obviously something that is affecting UMass, as seen with all the non-conference games against Hockey East teams in the last two seasons.

Polls & Awards: Iacobellis Named HEA Player of the Week

Congratulations go to Massachusetts sophomore forward Steven Iacobellis for being named the Hockey East Player of the Week.  While Iacobellis was named the team’s Rookie of the Year last season, this is the first Hockey East weekly honor for Iacobellis who had two goals and two assists in Saturday’s win over Michigan State.  Patrick Lee was named one of the weekly Top Performers for his three point weekend that included the game winner in the waning seconds of Saturday match.

Iacobellis was also named co-UMass Athlete of the Week with running back Shadrach Abrokwah.

Hockey East owns an entire block of this week’s top ten in the USCHO poll with Providence, Boston College, and Lowell coming in as the 5th, 6th, and 7th schools respectively.  The Friars didn’t move in the poll after playing an exhibition game against the USA Hockey U18 team this past week.  BC moved up a slot with their 6-2 win at RIT while Lowell jumped two spots after gaining a win and a tie against Quinnipiac.  Boston University’s win over UMass keeps on giving as the Terriers have still only played that one game on the season yet slid up to #12 in the poll.  Vermont has joined the rankings at #17 after starting the season 3-0-0.  Notre Dame, Merrimack, New Hampshire, and Northeastern are all getting votes.

Like the USCHO poll, the Minnesota Gophers are the top team in the USA Hockey Magazine/USA Today poll.

The highlights from this past weekend have been posted on UMass Athletics.  They’re worth a watch.  From Friday’s highlights I was impressed by Shane Walsh’s long cross ice set up to Keith Burchett’s first goal as well as the nice job by Dennis Kravchenko and Zack LaRue on the shorthanded goal.  On Saturday, the Lee gamewinner is certainly the big highlight, but the second goal of the game shows some excellent puck movement and a nice job by Lee in collecting a loose puck to start the whole play off.  On that sequence is some of the best passing I’ve seen from UMass in recent memory so make sure to check it out.

Here’s the weekend recap from the Collegian.

And here are some weekend thoughts from the Spartan viewpoint at The Only Colors.

Jeff Cox of SBN College Hockey has UMass at #10 in his Hockey East power rankings.

USHR is reporting that former UMass and BU recruit Liam Coughlin is now committed to Vermont.  Coughlin was all set to join UMass this semester until he backed out of his commitment in April for BU, which he had dubbed his “dream school”.  Well that dream didn’t last long as he was already on the outs with BU by the end of the summer.

Weekend Recap: Massachusetts Splits With Michigan State

Coming off last weekend’s 8-1 loss where the young Massachusetts team collapsed in the third period when faced with adversity, what I was hoping to see in this weekend’s series with Michigan State was an ability to battle and stay in the game.  I think you can safely say that was accomplished as the team fought hard all weekend on the way to a split with the Spartans.  The Minutemen got exactly what they needed if they want to be successful this season; a lot of contributions from the freshmen and sophomores.

I was only able to listen to both games, so I won’t be able to get too deep in my analysis.  On Friday the Minutemen lost 5-3.  After a first period that saw MSU take a 2-0 lead and UMass defenseman Ben Gallacher get seriously injured after a check from behind, one had to wonder how UMass would respond in the second.  It was an early test to see if the team had learned anything from the third period against BU.  And it didn’t take long for them to show that in this case they would choose to battle rather than fold.  They scored two quick goals to start the second frame, the first a was off the stick of Keith Burchett after a nice cross-ice pass (or shot?) from Shane Walsh.  Just a few minutes after that Zack LaRue tied the game on a shorthanded goal after a nice feed from Dennis Kravchenko.  Michigan State regained the lead midway through the period on a power play goal.  Being down a defenseman started to take its toll however and Michigan State would extend its lead to 5-2 after a couple goals early in the third.  Again UMass hung in there and Burchett would score again on a wrister, again off a pass from Shane Walsh, 13 minutes into the period.

That would do it though and Michigan State picked up the win.  Judging from the radio commentary UMass continued to show lapses in their own defensive end and got a shaky performance from Steve Mastalerz in net.  Still, they had to play with five defensemen the whole game so that certainly had an effect on how the defense fared.  The Gallacher injury is a tough one since UMass is only carrying seven defensemen on the roster until Brandon Montour is due to arrive in December.

There were some key positives on Friday despite the loss.  Certainly the play of Burchett and his linemate Walsh were the most obvious.  But I think just the fact that most of the game was give and take with both teams trading scores showed that the young UMass team is maturing and learning how to handle the different situations that come up during the game.  While there were breakdowns, the team played hard for all sixty minutes and they were never really out of the game.  And it put them in a good jumping off point for Saturday.

FTT Player of the Game (Friday) – Keith Burchett
This is an easy one.  Some of the other freshman forwards had the great reputations as forwards, but it ends up being Burchett to have the first breakout game among the group.  Good things happen when you attack the net, and that’s exactly what he did in his first goal when Walsh found him from the other side of the ice.

The theme of the weekend was battle, and that’s exactly what Saturday’s game was.  A battle.  Luckily for the Minutemen they got the last punch in just before the bell.  Patrick Lee’s first collegiate goal with 9.9 seconds left gave UMass its first win of the season with a 4-3 final score.  The game was dominated by the underclassemen with freshmen and sophomores accounting for all four goals and 11 of the 12 points in the game.  On the other end of the ice freshman Henry Dill got a win in his first start, finishing with 28 saves.

The teams were held scoreless for the first 15 minutes of the game and then quickly saw three goals scored in the last five minutes of the period.  Steven Iacobellis got the scoring started only to have Spartan Matt Berry answer just over a minute later.  Jake Horton then picked up his second goal of the season to give the Minutemen the lead going into the second period.  Berry would pick up the lone goal of the second period and then take the 3-2 lead just seconds into the third.  It stayed that way for most of the third until Iacobellis picked up his second with four and a half minutes left in the game to tie it.  Michigan State would make a critical mistake with four minutes left in the game when Justin Hoomainian got a game misconduct for a contact to the head penalty, allowing UMass to play the balance of regulation with an extra man.  With 9.9 seconds left Lee got the game winner and UMass comes home to Amherst with the split.

There were a lot of positives to take away from last night’s game.  Obviously freshmen Lee and Dill playing big roles in the win is one of them.  Horton is living up to his reputation as an offensive threat with his second goal on the young season.  The biggest thing last night was how well sophomore forwards Iacobellis and Ray Pigozzi played.  After being held scoreless in the first two games of the season Iacobellis had the two goals to go with two assists.  Pigozzi had three assists on the night.  There are still a few things to be concerned about however.  The depth at defense could be an issue if Gallacher is out for a while.  UMass fans are also wondering when they’ll hear from Frank Vatrano and Dennis Kravchenko.  The two are first and second on the team in shots on goal but have only combined for one point through the first three games, an assist by Kravchenko.   Freshman Anthony Petrella was also expected to be an offensive threat after leading prep powerhouse Shattuck-St Mary’s in goals last season but through three games hasn’t registered a shot on net.

The split was a success from my standpoint as the team made strides in shaking off the poor performance against BU last week.  The freshmen showed that they can be counted on to contribute and did not seem to be intimidated by playing on the road.  That’s key considering next weekend they’ll be playing in their first league road games at Boston College and Northeastern.

FTT Player of the Game (Saturday) – Steven Iacobellis
Lee was the hero and Dill did well in his first start but two goals and two assists, including on the game winner, gets Iacobellis the nod.

Friday’s recap and Saturday’s recap from UMass Athletics.

USCHO’s game story from Friday.

There wasn’t much other coverage of the series to share.

Michigan State Preview

Michigan State Spartans 0-0-0 (0-0-0)  Big Ten T-1st

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Massachusetts Minutemen 0-1-0 (0-1-0)  Hockey East T-4th

The Massachusetts hockey team kicks off their non-conference schedule and a key three week, three state road stretch Friday night in East Lansing, Michigan against the Spartans of Michigan State.  The Minutemen will be looking to rebound from a season opening loss to the Boston University Terriers in a game where the lopsided 8-1 final score masks the fact that they were only down a single goal after two periods.  UMass and Michigan State met this same weekend last year in Amherst with UMass gaining the weekend sweep, outscoring the Spartans 8-3 in the two games.  The series featured a couple multi-goal games from Minutemen with Branden Gracel netting two on Friday and then freshman Steven Iacobellis scoring two goals to go with an assist on the Saturday.

Michigan State hasn’t played a real game this year so it’s tough to know exactly what the Minutemen will be facing when they take the ice at Munn Ice Arena on Friday.  They did have an exhibition game against a Canadian team as well as an intrasquad scrimmage.  The results of the intrasquad scrimmage could be an indicator for what Sparty fans are in store for this year.  The game ended in a 0-0 tie and had to be settled with penalty shots.  That in a nutshell could be what Michigan State faces this year, an inability to score and above average goaltending.

MSU lost their top three scorers from a team that only scored 2.19 goals per game last year.  They’ll first look to senior Matt Berry to solve their scoring woes as he’s coming off a season that saw him score 10 times total despite missing a third of the season due to injury.  That’s it in terms of returners who scored double digits in goals.  Junior Michael Ferrantino, captain of the team, had 9 goals and 11 assists last year.  Friday will mark the first game in the green and white for freshman Dylan Pavalek who is expected to contribute quickly as he comes out of the US National Development Program.

There are no question marks for the Spartans in net where junior Jake Hillenbrand will likely keep his team in a lot of games this season.  As a sophomore last year his .923 save percentage ranked him among the top 20 goaltenders in the country.  If he continues to develop MSU could end up being one of the better defensive teams in the country.

On offense UMass is facing the same challenges as Michigan state.  They’ve lost a lot of scoring from their team that last year was ranked near the bottom nationally for offense.  Unlike Michigan State, they have a much larger freshman class that will be looked upon to pick up the slack for goals this season.  Defenseman Jake Horton got on the scoring sheet last week, but the freshman forwards plus Frank Vatrano need to break out as well.  The top line of Vatrano, Dennis Kravchenko, and senior captain Troy Power got some good looks last week but need to find the back of the net.  A little worrisome is the sophomore duo of Ray Pigozzi and Iacobellis who only combined for three total shots against BU.  They’ll need to generate more offense than that to have an impact on the outcome.

I think more than Xs and Os or line combinations what’s most important this weekend is for the team to give a consistent effort and stay mentally tough.  For the freshman the first game jitters should be history.  The team has had another week to get used to linemates and perhaps learn new schemes.  It was awful to witness and seriously concerning at the time when it was occurring, but several days later the third period collapse doesn’t worry me as much as it did.  I think we can write if off to inexperience and the pressure of the night.  But that doesn’t mean it’ll be acceptable going forward.  Giving up goals in bunches like that and not getting back on defense simply cannot happen.  And hopefully the lesson has been learned that you just cannot let up like they did, because a team like BU will make you pay for it over and over.

The timing of this road trip is probably a good thing for the team.  They’re able to do some travelling, which could work to bond the team together.  And the first year players will have a chance to get used to a typical road trip routine and dealing with a hostile crowd before they head to Northeastern and Boston College next weekend in games that will count towards the Hockey East standings.  I don’t think there is a ton of pressure on the team to repeat last year’s sweep but at the same time  such a result isn’t completely unreasonable.  But at the end of the weekend it’ll probably be enough to just know that the offense is starting to click and the players are not missing their defensive responsibilities before moving on to the conference game trips in the coming weeks.

Beer The Triangle
East Lansing is actually a town I’ve spent significant time in.  Unfortunately for my BTT feature,most of that time was close to 20 years ago and before I turned 21.  This looks like somewhere I’d check out though.  Hell, you could always just drive down to Kalamazoo and check out one of my favorite breweries, Bell’s Brewing.

The Collegian has their preview of the Spartan series.

Frank Vatrano and Steve Mastalerz made this All-Massachusetts Team put together by Jeff Cox of SB Nation.

Ever want to drive the Zamboni at the Mullins?  Here is your chance!

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